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  • Writer's pictureLogan Hagoort

A Directory Worth Reading

a woman reading while sitting

Like most people, you probably find directories pretty boring. I mean, who really wants to read a list of names, or a bunch of boring points in a document? There is one directory that is worth reading. It is called "The Directory of Public Worship".

You may not be aware that our denomination (Grace Presbyterian Church of New Zealand) has a book of church order. This book details how we govern our church. At the bottom of this document, there is a section on how we, at Covenant, ought* to order our worship. Rather than giving you the whole document and telling you to read it (though you can definitely do that!), I thought it might be helpful to share it with you in chunks, with some commentary.

Chapter 47 - The Principles and Elements of Public Worship

47.1. Since the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice, the principles of public worship must be derived from the Bible, and from no other source. The Scriptures forbid the worshipping of God by images, or in any other way not appointed in His Word, and requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in His Word (WSC 51, 50).

The Grace Presbyterian Church of New Zealand holds to what is called the regulative principle of worship. As 47.1 states, this means God alone regulates how he is to be worshipped. We are to make sure that we do not do what God forbids AND we are to do what God appoints. Commonly people will say, "But God hasn't said we can't do 'x'". That misses the very heart of this principle. We do not have the freedom to worship God as we please, because we cannot know how to worship God in a way that he approves unless he tells us. Therefore, we must worship him according to what he declares. I unpack this further in a sermon on 2 Chronicles 29-31 and a devotion on 1 Corinthians 14. I'd encourage you to check them out for a deeper explanation.

The regulative principle of worship is an essential aspect of the life of our Church and all the decisions the elders make around worship are bound by it. Let me encourage you to consider the different aspects of our worship and, if you ever see anything done that is not set forth in Scripture, to approach one of us. As we close out the first point of the directory for public worship, let me leave you with the thoughts of the Westminster divines on the subject:

The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. (Westminster Confession of Faith, 21.1)


*It is important to note that I used the word "ought" above. This is because the directory does not have the force of law, but rather should be taken seriously as an approved guide.

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